In Conversation with... Kirsty Hobson.
Our founder, Fiona Burrage, recently had the pleasure of working with Kirsty and the rest of the Norfolk Nutters and was intrigued to find out more. This group of friends regularly meet up to wild-swim across Norfolk and, this week, they celebrated their second birthday. Congratulations on turning two.
Who came up with the idea, and what is the story behind the name?
Thank you! A lot of us moved back home over the past few years and reconnected with one another, having been friends at school almost 10 years ago! The Nutters were first named on a frosty dip at Hellesdon Mill. Almost mistaken as part of a much more professional looking swimming crew, we giggled in response that we were in fact the “Norfolk Nutters”. The name was a bit of a joke at first, but now it’s kind of stuck.
When did you first wild-swim and what was the reason?
We started dipping as a collective during lockdown. Trowse was our first dip as a collective. When we weren’t able to hang out together indoors we started exploring the place where we grew up and slowly began to fall in love with the nature of Norfolk. As soon as we started wild swimming we were hooked!
How many times a month do you try to swim?
Good question. I could lie here and say everyday, but it really varies depending on our schedules. During the Nutters inception we were dipping much more regularly. The swims became our daily activity, often bookended by a bike ride through the woods. Nowadays we might do four one week then only one the next. It’s rare that the whole gang gets together but when it happens it’s super special. Another reason our swims are sometimes hindered is due to sewage dumps. They seem to be happening all the time at the moment and so we always cancel a swim or swap spots, as health is always number one priority. It is important to stay up to date and be mindful of where is safe to swim day to day.
Do you have a favourite place to swim or time of year?
That is a tough one! A whole day swimming in the summer when you can spend time on the beach is something we’re really lucky to be able to do in Norfolk. Trimmingham, Sea Palling and Cart Gap are some of our favourite beach spots. Although during winter swims, nothing beats the euphoria you feel when warming up with a cup of tea after an icy dip. Drayton Green Lanes, Oxnead and Marsden Marshes are some of the best river spots in town if you fancy a slightly longer swim along the river.
For those who have not tried it before, can you describe how this makes you feel during and after you’ve been swimming?
Getting out of bed on a cold winter morning before the sun has risen can be challenging for the earliest of risers. However, when you make it out for a swim early doors and find the first flecks of golden hour sunshine creep through the trees and start to hit the water, there really is nothing quite like it. The cold definitely takes some building up to, but once you’ve mastered a cold dip and you emerge from the water, the elation you feel is second to none. It’s almost as though all of your senses have been switched to their highest frequency. You can be nothing but present. There really is no better way to start the day.
For novices, is there any practical or safety advice worth knowing?
Yes for sure! Read up a bit on tides and currents. Understanding the water is key. The best purchase we ever made for wild swimming (aside for our Nutters hats), is neoprene socks or gloves. As well as preventing heat loss through your extremeties they also make many terrains much more accessible. And if you’re new to wild swimming and braving the cold we would recommend slowly lowering yourself into the water, rather than a big jump, to avoid cold water shock. Practicing deep breathing as you enter the water can help with this too.
Do you have any places on your list you’ve not explored?
It is fun to think we’ve left no stone unturned in our home county, but there’s always another secret spot lurking just beyond the river bend. Every year we go on two Nutters adventures; one close-to-home and another slightly further afield. Next on our hit list are some of the islands surrounding the UK.
If anyone reading would like to try a water based adventure slightly further afield, I have recently launched the next round of Back To Our Roots. These are a series of retreats in Egypt focussed around conservation. You can either choose to yoga, scuba or combine the two! For more information you can contact me on Instagram.